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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

Paris' Lesser Known Notre Dame ... (Notre Dame des Victoires)


image: lumièredumonde

Of course, when we think of Notre Dame and Paris, we assume that we are referring to her monumental Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris. Dear P'Nicher, did you know that there are actually 37 different Notre Dame parishes in Paris?


While we await our main lady to undergo a not so subtle "nip/tuck," let's use this time to explore a lesser known gem that has quickly taken place in my heart as my favorite church in Paris... La Basilique Notre-Dame des Victoires.


image: Christina Consolé

Nestled in the second arrondissement of Paris, this church is located just steps away from Place des Victoires, with its triumphant statue of Louis XIV (which commemorates the Treaties of Nijmegen).


Currently, this area is a hub of art and fashion, boasting both luxury and popular names - not to mention some private homes that must be simply beyond spectacular to inhabit.



image: Christina Consolé

That said, you can still feel (and witness) the Marian influence in the architecture just outside the basilica.


The Blessed Mother is still quite visible to passersby - she keeps a watchful eye as you enjoy a stroll, shop for tea, or simply nibble a croissant at the corner café "Le Moulin de la Vierge".


P'Niche PSA - try the croissants there - they are a buttery bite of paradise!


image: en.wikipedia.org

Approaching the church, you note that Notre Dame des Victoires is a very modest looking basilica, in comparison to many other houses of worship. Her construction began (in the Baroque style) on December 08, 1629. King Louis XIII personally laid the cornerstone the day after the foundation was blessed by the Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Francois de Gondi.


The church was dedicated to the victory of Louis XIII over the Huguenots at La Rochelle, which he felt he owed to the intercession of the Blessed Mother.


Gratitude to Mother Mary is to play a large part in the history of this church as we will explore momentarily...


image: Christina Consolé

While at the onset of the church's construction, the plans were laid by modest Augustinian monks, it was soon felt that the church was being built too small, by the new royal standards of the time.


As such, in 1656, reconstruction was begun in accordance with the newer plans of Pierre Le Muet, and overseen by several gentlemen, with the completion of the church finally being seen in 1737, under the watchful eyes of Sylvain Cartaud.


Notably, he took to the expansion of the nave, in addition to the construction of the transept's spherical roof.





image: notre dame des victoires

The church's design accommodates 14 vignettes, each one dedicated to a particular saint or ideal.


The church also boasts a gorgeous organ. As this was Mozart's church when he was living near poverty in Paris at the time (on the nearby rue du Sentier), we wonder if he ever came in to play a tune?


The church has literature available within to self guide your way around, and I am happy to show you my own personal photos of each of the 14 vignettes.



Remembering that P'Niche is not a professional photographer and that this is a living, bustling, and beloved local parish, we tried not to disrupt prayers and worship to capture photos... Based on the above interior map, the vignettes are:


image: Christina Consolé
  1. Chapel of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux


This altar is dedicated to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.


A young Thérèse Martin was suffering heavily from tuberculosis. Wishing to enter the convent to become a Carmelite nun, she stopped here before departing for Rome and offered a novena to Saint Thérèse for the restoration of her health, which did miraculously happen.


Remembering our discussion on the differences between cathedrals, churches and basilicas, we note that in 1927, following the canonization of Saint Thérèse, Pope Pius XI distinguished the title of basilica to this house of worship.



image: en.wikipedia.org

2. Chapel of Saint Jean: Cénotaph of Lully


This chapel is dedicated to Jean-Baptiste Lully (1633-1687). This tomb (which was demolished during the Commune) was said to contain original bronze statues dating back to the 12th century.


Additional remains of this ensemble (called Cénotaph) were placed in the ceiling between the chapels of Saint Jean and the Holy Child in 1822.


If you look closely at this image, you can see many ex-voto plaques behind the bust, as well as in the archway overhead. We will touch on ex-voto plaques in a moment, so stick with me, P'Nichers!



image: Christina Consolé

3. Chapel of the Holy Child (and Saint Jean-Paul II)


This chapel is dedicated to the Holy Child. Quite recently, it was also dedicated to Saint John Paul II (formerly Pope John Paul II).


This chapel directly faces the vignette dedicated to the Sacred Heart and was heavily filled with candles lit in prayer, as well as handwritten notes from parents wishing good health for their children and younger relatives.


It's a quiet and special place for reflection, despite the bright sunlight flowing through the prism of stained glass above.




image: Christina Consolé

4. Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows


Quite apparently, this chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, with the centerpiece featuring a stunning pietà.


The pietà, when seen up close, displays feelings of such pain and anguish that only a mother in despair can feel.


Flanked by marble columns, the solemnity of the vignette is not to be missed. The statue on the right is dedicated to those soldiers who lost their lives for France during The Great War (World War I).


Yet, despite the sorrow, the area is covered still in ex-votos from other mothers whose prayers were joyfully answered.


Now about those ex-voto plaques...



image: Christina Consolé

5. Ex-Votos and Military Objects


Simply stated, ex-voto is the Latin term (shortened from ex voto suscepto), meaning "the vow made." They are marble "thank you notes" placed in humble Thanksgiving in the place where your prayer was made and/or miracle received.


Ex-voto plaques can be dedicated to prayers answered, protections, healings, vocations, calls to conversion, etc.


image: Christina Consolé

Various war time medals are also left in this chapel, in continued thanks and tribute, since 1843.


There are tens of thousands of ex-votos in this church - in literally every nook and cranny of the church. On the floor, on the ceilings, in archways and even under the stairs, there is not a spot in the church not dedicated to thanksgiving.


It was in 1836 that Father Desgenettes consecrated this Parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and since then, pilgrims from all over the world have come in humble supplication and/or thanksgiving.


From 1837 to date (October 2022), there are over 37,200 ex-voto plaques. Dating back hundreds of years, it seems the latest plaque was added on July 05, 2021.



image: Christina Consolé

6. Gorgeous Sculpted Pulpit


Here, in this photo, you can see the church's pulpit. By definition, a pulpit is simply an elevated stand or platform for preachers in a Christian church. The origin of the word is the Latin pulpitum. Pulpits were designed to ensure that the mass could be heard by all and to make the community seen by the church's leader.


This stunning pulpit was sculpted in the 18th century by Louis Régnier. It was Régnier who was also responsible for the design of the organ, tribute, and drum buffet.


Against a background composed of many ex-votos, what a wonderful way to experience a homily.



image: Christina Consolé

7. Chapel to Saint Augustin


This vignette is dedicated to Saint Augustin, patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians.


This was one of the quieter alcoves of the basilica. With a more subdued vibe, there were fewer candles being lit in prayer, fewer passersby.


If you stopped, you were able to be left in absolute silence to enjoy views of the rest of the basilica, given its very central interior location.


Still filled with ex-votos, this particular space felt part of, but also separate from, the rest of the church.



image: Christina Consolé

8. Chapel of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin


In the middle of so much history, all of a sudden, a moment of utter modernity is found in this chapel (inaugurated in 2012), which houses the relics of St. Thérèse's parents.


Louis Martin and his wife, Zelie, regularly attended masses at this basilica and he likened it to "a small paradise on earth."



image: Christina Consolé

9. The Choir


These paintings (removed during the French Revolution and replaced in 1811) by Carl Van Loo are a highlight. They measure between 3 meters and 5 meters each and are quite unique in France.


One must also notice the gorgeous ivory crucifix in front of the center canvas (dating from the 15th century).


The stained glass window dates to the 19th century. The woodwork (panels and moldings) are 3.3 meters high. They date from 1688 and were sculpted by Bardou, based on drawings from brother Tiburce.


It's a magnificent envelopment.



image: Christina Consolé

10: Altar & Statue of the Virgin Mary


This breathtaking statue of Notre Dame des Victoires is at the center of the right hand of the basilica. Composed of hard plaster, and molded by an unnamed Italian sculptor, she was placed here in 1809 and crowned on July 09, 1853 (at the request of Pope Pius IX), in thanksgiving for the deliverance of Rome by French soldiers in 1849. Notably, this statue was the first Virgin Mary crowned by a pope in France.


The relics of Santa Aurelia, a young Roman martyr are contained under the altar, and were offered by Pope Gregory XVI. If you look closely, you can see a prayer basket, lower left side, containing prayers and intentions left by the faithful.



image: Christina Consolé

11. Work Bench


While the work bench (which houses a small statue of Groenewald's Immaculate Conception) was not able for viewing, on the way, we were able to admire even more creative placements of more ex-voto plaques.


It has to be seen to be believed!




image: Christina Consolé

12. Chapel of Saint Anne


This chapel is dedicated to Saint Anne, the mother of the Blessed Mother, and as such, the grandmother of Jesus Christ.


Not much is known about Saint Anne, but she has come to be the patron saint of quite a few causes, including: mothers, grandparents, pregnant women, children, unmarried people, teachers, carpenters, child care providers, seamstresses, lace makers, second hand clothes dealers, equestrians, stablemen, miners, lost things, moving homes, poverty, sterility, and a host of various cities and countries.


This chapel had many, many visitors during my visit and mass in the parish.



image: Christina Consolé

13. Chapel of the Sacred-Heart


This chapel, dedicated to the Sacred-Heart of Jesus is a quiet retreat in the basilica. For those wondering, in Catholic churches and homes, it is very common to find imagery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


It depicts God’s love revealed in the pierced heart of His Son and symbolizes a love that conquers sin and transcends death. Simply put, it is the symbol of the One who loved us to the end.


In the image to the left, the rays that stream out of Christ have symbolic meaning. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus, and the white symbolizes, water, (which justifies souls). The whole image symbolizes charity, forgiveness, and the love of God, referred to as the "Fountain of Mercy".


image: Christina Consolé

14. The Chapel of Saint Joseph (and Place of Memory and Consolation)


This was, by far, the busiest alcove in the church (aside from the altar and statue of the Blessed Mother).


In front of the statue of Saint Joseph (Foster Father of Jesus and patron saint of workers, carpenters, etc.), and sculpture of the Holy Family (crafted from wood from Bethlehem), there is a prayer basket. Each day, these handwritten prayers (P'Niche left one, too) are gathered and brought forward during services for supplication.


Witnessing whispers of faith, as well as tears of prayerful hope, and often joy, was quite moving to behold.



image: Jeroen de Haan

15. The Organ


This magnificent organ was built in 1739 by François-Henri Lesclop (with wooden case carved by Louis Régnier). After several iterations, a new instrument was built by Alfred Kern in the French-German neo-classical style in 1973. A restauration was carried out in 1995 by Muhleisen and further maintenance works and updates were completed in 2015 by Fossaert and Muhleisen.


image: www.patrimoine-histoire.fr

As mentioned earlier, this parish is active and thriving, and you are certainly able to attend a mass here, if that is your wish.


Attending mass in a foreign language can be quite overwhelming and more than a bit intimidating. Soon, we will post about how to follow along during a catholic mass in French, and hope you will subscribe to Parisian Niche to learn more.


One thing that was truly unique about mass at Notre Dame des Victoires was that at the end of the mass, the entire congregation turned to face the statue of Our Lady and sang the "Salve Regina" (That's Hail Mary in Latin). It was incredibly special to witness this and participate.



image: Christina Consolé

Want to make your own pilgrimage to this basilique most unique? Here are the pertinent logistics:


Address: 6, rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, 75002


Métro: Bourse; Palais Royal


Hours: Sunday: 8:30am - 7:30pm

Tues - Sat: 7:30am - 7:30pm

Masses: Saturday - 6:00pm

Sunday - 11:00am and 6:00pm

Eucharistic Adoration:

Tuesday - Friday - 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Sunday - 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Telephone: 331 42 60 90 47




What is your favorite church or house of worship in Paris, P'Nicher? Are you inspired to check this beauty out? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below et à bientôt!


image: Christina Consolé

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